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i8o The Indiana Magazine of History
Historic Houses and Personages of Centerville
By Mrs. Helen V. Austin
( From papers of the Wayne County Historical Society)
THE history of Whitewater College, founded by the Methodist
Episcopal church in 1853, might fill a volume, but it can
only be given mere mention here. It was a great school, and
many prominent men were teachers here, among them Dr. Cyrus
Nutt, George B. Joslyn, Dr. Edwards, H. N. Barnes and Prof.
A. C. Shortridge.
Previous to the establishment of the college, a county semi-
nary occupied the ground. In 1827 the west wing was built and
in 1842, when more room was needed, an east wing was added.
The two buildings were connected by a covered passage way.
Afterwards, when the college took the place of the seminary, the
central part of the college occupied the passage waj', with the
former seminary buildings as west and east wings. Rev. Samuel
K. Houshour taught in the old seminary in the west wing.
Among the teachers in the east wing, were Miss Mary Thorp,
Miss Sarah Dickenson and Rawson Vaile. Among the pupils of
after fame was I,ew Wallace, and there are those who remember
how the future soldier, diplomat and author was once roundly
flogged by Mr. Hoshour. After the decline of the college, the
building was sold, in 1870, to the school trustees and became the
public school building. It was destroyed by fire in 1891 and was
succeeded bj^ the present fine public school house. At the foot
of Main Cross Street stands the ruins of a brick school house
where many of the older citizens received a part of their
The first church organization here was the Methodist Episcopal.
When the county seat was pulled up by the roots at Salisbury
and transplanted at Centerville, the Methodist church came with
it. There had been no church building at Salisbury, the
c«>ngregation having met in the court house, and prior to the
building of a meeting hcuse here the congregation met at the
houses of members.
Historic Houses of Centerville i8i
In 1828 a frame church was built. It was situated east of
where the Christian church now stands and fronted on the east.
Mr. N. Parrott's stable now occupies the spot where the church
stood. There was a street north of the county buildings, where
there is now an alley, which led to the church from the west.
The parsonage was on the church grounds, west of the church,
and stood there after the church was torn away. It was moved
to Walnut street and is now the home of Mr. Dearth. In 1834
the conference, then comprising the entire State, was held in this
church, the venerable Bishop Roberts presiding. In the year
1842 the present brick church was completed. It was at that
time not only the finest Methodist church in the State, but the
finest one in the State belonging to any church organization.
Upon the completion of the new church in 1842 conference was
again held here. Bishop Simpson dedicated the church and
presided at the conference. In 1882 the building underwent
repairs and was re-dedicated by the Rev. A. Marine.
It must be remembered that although the Friends were not
the first to form a society in the town, they were the first religious
society in the the township and organized the West Grove
meeting in 1813, three miles north west of Centerville, and built
a log meeting house. Thus the leaven of the old church at
West Grove, has been leavening ever since.
The Cumberland Presbyterian church was organized in 1842,
Rev. LeRoy Woods, officiating. Mr. Woods was the pastor for
several years and was succeeded by Elam McCord. A Sunday-
school was organized in connection with the church. For some
time after the organization, meetings were held in the Methodist
church. In 1849 the cangregation built a church on the west
side of north Main Cross Street, which is now the Knights of
The Disciples or Christian church was organized about 1832.
A Baptist church had existed earlier. The old meeting house
was situated some distance north of where the railroad station
now is. About 1837 the baptist organization disbanded and a
greater part of the members united with the Christian church.
The present Christian church was erected in 1878.
The Presbyterian church was organized in 1866. The first
services were held in Snider Hall, the present town hall. In
1 82 The Indiana Magazine of History
1 868 the congregation erected the brick church on south Main
Cross street. Chief among the zealous members of the church
was Mrs. Kate U. Johnson, wife of Judge Nimrod Johnson and
the mother of Henry U. and Robert U. Johnson, and it was
through her efiForts as a solicitor and contributor that the church
was built. After the removal of the county seat and the decline
of the town, the church was purchased by the Friends and is
now their house of worship.
The early hotels or taverns were important institutions in
the pioneer days. Rachel Neal is said to have been the first inn-
keeper. There are people now living who remember Mrs. Neal,
but where her inn was situated I have not been able to learn.
The old Major Gay tavern opposite the public square, where
there is now a livery stable, was fitted up in 1834, by Thomas
G. Noble, and occupied by him for several years. General
Samuel DeLong succeeded Mr. Noble for several years.
In 1830 William Elliott built the frame hotel on the .south-
east corner of the public square, and occupied it until 1835.
John Hutchinson succeeded Mr. Elliott and kept an excellent
house. In 1838 Daniel lyashley, with his mother and younger
brother Alfred, purchased the tavern. Among all the hotel
keepers of Wayne county none were more favorably known than
the Lashleys. They continued in the business, in the same
house, for many years. It was headquarters for many of the
prominent men of the legal profession. Judge Perry, of Rich-
mond, always made it his home when attending court. It was
a home-like, well-ordered, excellent hotel. Mr. L,ashley was the
best of hosts. The Lashley house was moved from the public
square some years ago to where it now stands, a few squares
east of the old location. A fine brick residence occupies the site.
This was built for the sheriff's house, and is now the residence
of the Frazier brothers and Miss Frazier. The old Lashle}'
house is now a private residence. John King was the last to
keep it as a hotel. In 1833 John Dorsey fitted up the large
frame building nearly opposite the bank, for a hotel and occupied
it for some time. He was succeeded by John Allison, Abbott
W. Bowers and John Winders. Solomon Brumfield bought the
Historic Houses of Centerville 183
property and occupied it. Under his management it was well
In 1837 Henry Rowan fitted up a small tavern east of the
public square and kept it several years. He afterwards erected
a three-story hotel building adjoining, which is now the residence
of Lloyd K. Hill.
Samuel Hannah kept the American house, on the south-west
corner of Main street. He was a merchant, also, and had his
store in the corner room. Later, the American House was kept
by Emsley Hamm, T. L. Rowan and others. The building is
now owned by Simon McConaha.
The Jones House is the last in the line of the old hostelries.
The south half was built by Emsley Hamm. The north half
was built by Daniel Shank. Subsequently Mr. Hamm bought
the north part from Mr. Shank, and kept a hotel for some years.
He afterwards sold the house to Dr. C. J. Woods and moved to
Economy, and upon his return to Centerville kept the American
House for two years. Norris Jones who succeeded Mr. Hamm
gave the name to the house and for several years kept an excel-
lent, though small hotel.
Samuel Hannah, although at one time a hotel keeper and
merchant filled many important places. He was a man of dis-
tinction. The young people who compiled a Who-When-What
book,* had some trouble not to confuse him with the other
Samuel Hanna of Indiana, who lived at Ft. Wayne. There is a
difference in the .spelling of the name. The Who-When-What
book gives a brief sketch of our Samuel Hannah: "A pioneer of
Wayne county ; member of the Society of Friends ; conspicuous
for opposition to the collection cf the fines from Quakers who
refused to do military duty. A native of Delaware, bom De-
cember I, 1789, Mr. Hannah came Indiana as a young man;
served as sheriff of Wayne county ; amember of the Legislature ;
was Justice of the Peace and member of the county board ; was
appointed Post master of Centerville by John Quincy Adams and
removed by Andrew Jack.son, in pursuance of the Marcy
proclamation, "To the victors belong the spoils." He was one
of the commissioners appointed to locate the Michigan road, the
great highwa}^ authorized from Lake Michigan to the Ohio
*A book of brief biographies compiled by the India na^-i'tis P> fss some years ago.
184 The Indiana Magazine of History
river; also a commissionier to select the lands to be ceded to the
State by an Indian treaty. Afterward Mr. Hanna was a member
of the lyCgislature and Treasurer of the State; removed to Indi-
anapolis in 1 847 ; became interested in railroad construction and
improvements; was first treasurer of the Indiana Central Rail-
road Company. He died September 8, 1869. Mr. Hannah
possessed the rugged elements of strength and manhood which
qualify men for frontier life; for developing the material resources
and building a commonwealth on justice and liberty."
The red brick school house opposite to Mr. Lashley's was the
home of Judge John C. Kibbey, who was so well known here
and at Richmond. The place is now the home of Mr. Andrew
The brick house on the corner west of the Trumbull residence
was built b}' Rawson Vaile, a teacher in the old seminary and
also a teacher in Richmond. He was a brother of Dr. Joel Vaile,
of Richmond, a prominent physician and public school trustee,
after whom one of the school houses of Richmond is named.
Judge Nimrod Johnson bought the Vaile property and this
was the Johnson homestead for many years. Here Henry U.
and Robert U. Johnson spent their boyhood. Judge Johnson
was not only eminent in the legal profession, but he was a man
of vast literary knowledge. Mrs. Johnson was Miss Kate Under-
wood and was a native of Washington, D. C.
The quaint old house, now the home of Mrs. Jennie Savage,
was in the old time, the Doughty home. Samuel Doughty was
a merchant. His store was where Jacob Wolfe's is now. Mr.
Doughty had his home in Richmond in later years, and died
there about a year ago.
The house where Mrs. Gibson lives, on Walnut street, was
the Dill home. It is an old-time place, with colonial pillars to
the portico. Mr. Dill was a cabinet maker, and went to Rich-
mond many years ago.
The large white brick house on north Main Cross street,
known as the Pritchett property, was built by Judge Williams, or
rather the south end was. Judge John S. Newman built the north
end. This was a grand mansion in its day. Judge Newman
was a Quaker lawyer and for ten years a partner of Jessie Sid-
dall. He was of the Hoover stock. His wife was Eliza, daughter
Historic Houses of Centerville 185
of Samuel Hannah; his daughter, Gertrude, married Ingram
Fletcher, of Indianapolis. He was the first president of the In-
diana Central railroad and held many other responsible positions.
He removed to Indianapolis in i860. Dr. Pritchett bought the
house of Judge Newman. It was the Pritchett homestead for
many years. Here Dr. Pritchett and his estimable wife passed
their declining years. The house was inherited by the daughter,
Miss Mary Pritchett.
Opposite the Pritchett house, on the east, is a frame house
where Jeremiah Wayne Swafford lived the last thirty years of
his life, and where he peacefully died last summer, at the age of
eighty-four. Mr. Swafford was a pioneer of Wayne count}' and
Justice of the Peace nearly all his life and up to the time of his
death. He was widely known as a business man in Wayne and
In the early days, before this large house was built, there
were two small frame dwellings on the lot. One was the home
of Rev. Mr. Rupe the father of attorney John Rupe, of Richmond.
The other frame building was the home for awhile of Dr. Rose.
His wife Henrietta Rose was a lady of attainment and a writer of
some note. She was the author of a small volume entitled
"Nora Wilmot; a Tale of Temperance and Woman's Rights,"
published in 1858. The frontispiece is a quaint old wood cut —
' 'The L,adies' Knitting Party at Tradewells Saloon. ' ' The thread
of the story runs through that period when Indiana had a
prohibitory liquor law, which was declared unconstitutional by
Judge Perkins of the Supreme Court of Indiana.
James Rariden, one of the eminent men of his time, lived
where Mrs. James M. Hill now lives. The grounds included
the lot where the Christian Church now stands. A summer
house covered with vines and flowers and shubbery gave the spot
an air of rural retreat. But this lovely spot was too much retired
and Mr. Rariden moved into a brick house on west Main street.
It was in this house that Mr. Rariden entertained Henry Clay
when he made his tour through Indiana. A reception was held
in the evening for the great Kentuckian, The children as well
as the older people attended. Mr. Clay was very fond of children
and kissed them all. Mrs. Ensley was then little Sarah Hamm
and remembers being kissed. Mr. Clay said to little Gertrude
1 86 The Indiana Magazine of History
Newman, now Mrs. Ingram Fletcher: "My dear, you have a very
pretty name, but it ought to be pronounced Jertrude." And to
a boy he said: "You have a very large mouth, but that does not
matter in a boy." As Mr. Clay had a large mouth this remark
caused a hearty laugh all round. It was in this house that Mr.
Clay authorized a committee to oflfer freedom to his body servant,
the petted slave Charlie, who declined to leave his master. The
house has changed owners several times in recent years and it is
at present the home of Mr. and Mrs. Joshua Eliason. After Mr.
Rariden left the rural retreat Rosswell Elmer and wife occupied
It. They were the parents of Charles N. Elmer and Mrs. James
John Finley, the poet, and for many years the Mayor of
Richmond, when clerk of Wayne county court resided in a small
house on Plum street, near the Elmer home. The cottage and
extensive gardens of Mr. E. Y. Teas, the well known florist, was
for years the home of Henry Noble, who now lives in Indianapolis.
Two houses on an elevation north of the railroad, always
attracting attention of travelers, are notable mansions of the olden
time. The one on the west was built by Samuel Hannnah.
James Forkner improved it and occupied it until he removed to
Richmond. It is now the property of C. L. Porter, and
the home of Thomas Clark. On the ea.st of this is the mansion
built by Daniel Strattan. He was a tanner by trade and a
prominent citizen. Beautiful for situation is the fine old mansion
south of the railroad, built by Jacob B. Julian. It was the family
residence previous to his removal to Irvington. On the west of
Mr. Seaton was the home of Jesse Stevens, a pioneer of Center-
ville. Mrs. John Paige, of Richmond, and Mrs. Henry Noble,
of Indianapolis, were daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Stevens. The
house is now the home of Mrs. Nichols. A large brick house on
the south side of Main street, the home of Jesse Brumfield, was
built by Martin Hornish, a shoe-maker and a prosperous citizen.
Judge Stitt lived where H. H. Peelle now lives, and next, on the
east, was the home of Judge Jesse Siddall. Farther east on Main
street is a substantial brick house built bj- George W, Julian,
which was the family residence for many years previous to removal
to Irvington. Dr. Silas H. Kersey bought the property, and
made it his family residence for several vears. It was in this
Historic Houses of Centerville 187
house that Dr. Kersey died. It is now the residence of I. L.
Houck. Opposite, on the north, on the site of the residence of
George Sanders, stood one of the oldest houses of Centerville.
Mrs. Rebecca Julian lived there at one time. Her husband, Isaac
Julian, died and left her a widow with a family of children. She
was a sister of Judge David Hoover, a pioneer of Wayne county,
and the mother of George W. Julian. Across the street to the
east is the brick house that was long the home of Dr. William F.
King, deceased. He was an eminent physician and prominent
citizen. The house is now the residence of his daughter. Miss
Emilie King. North east, on the same square is an old frame
house, one of the oldest now standing in Centerville. It was the
residence of James B. Ray, afterwards Governor of Indiana. C.
Cooney now resides there.
On west Main street, where H. C. Means now lives, was the
residence of Martin M. Ray, a brother to Governor Ray. He
was a lawyer and a merchant as well. His store was in the
corner building occupied now by Tillson's drug store. Frederick
Snider, a merchant, had his store where Mr. King now has a
restaurant. On west Main street where Bert Horner now lives,
is the house built by Thomas Gentry, a tanner and one of the
substantial citizens. Lot Bloomfield built the house where Isaac
Jenkins now lives. He was a merchant of the place. His wife
was Elizabeth Talbot, a sister to Mrs. Hamm and Mrs. Dr.
Pritchett. The Simon McConaha home was built by Dr. Pritch-
ett, who occupied it before he bought the Judge Newman place.
The old house with dormer windows, now the residence of Alfred
L,ashley, in the old time was the residence of Henry BeitzelL
The old Burbank home was on the south side of Main street
opposite the court house. The house was partially destroyed by
fire in later years. Mr. Burbank was a merchant. The parlors
and family apartments were up stairs over the store. The
Burbank young people were well educated and were prominent
in social circles. It was in this home that Oliver P. Morton was
married to Lucinda Burbank.
Ambrose Burnside, afterwards a lawyer at Liberty, Union
County, and a General of renown in the Union army, worked at
the tailor trade in a building adjoining, and on the site of Dr.
Gable's residence and office once stood a large hatter's shoo
1 88 The Indiana Magazine of History
where the boy, Oliver P. Morton, learned his trade. Morton was
born at Salisbury. He was left an orphan and brought by his
aunts to Centerville when a child, where he learned the trade
with an older brother. Early in life he attended the seminary
here and Miami University, at Oxford, Ohio, and was always a
profound student. The early years of Morton's married life were
passed in a frame house on the north-east corner of south Main
Cross street. The homestead known as the Morton mansion, on
west Main street, was built by Jacob B. Julian. Mr. Julian was
a tree planter, and his lawn was a landscape garden, where na-
ture was permitted to rule. When Mr. Julian built his stately
home near the railroad he sold this Eden spot to Oliver P. Morton.
Here a liberal and unostentatious hospitality was dispensed by
Morton and his amiable wife. It was while living in this house
that Morton was elected Lieutenant Governor on the ticket with
Henry S. Lane. Judge William A. Peelle bought the Morton
mansion after his term as Secretary of State expired. Judge
Peelle died there on July i, 1902. The house is now the home
of his daughter, Miss Martha I,. Peelle.
Judge Charles H. Test lived on Main street where the town
hall now stands. Mrs. James Rariden was his sister. It was
considered that Judge Test, while eminent as a lawyer, was by
nature preeminent and unequaled. He bore off the palm as the
homeliest man in Indiana. Adjoining the school-house campus
on the east is the old homestead of Stephen Crowe, one of the
early blacksmiths of the place. Mr. Crowe sold the house to
John Peele, an old settler, and Samuel Boyd, a retired farmer,
bought the place from Mr. Peele and passed the remainder of his
days there. The property is now the home of Mr. and Mrs.
John Lashley. The house on the east, now the residence of
J. A. Commons, was the home of Sylvester Johnson, now of
Irvington, and a well-known horticulturist.
Many do not know that the substantial brick building on the
north-east corner of Main street was, in the palmy days of Cen-
terville, the court-house of Wayne county. It is now the busi-
ness house of T. G. Dunbar, while the extension to the north,
where Mr. Dunbar resides, was once the sheriff's house and jail.
The extension on the east was the county offices.